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Soccer is one of the most easily-accessible games for players, making it popular among school kids, hobbyists, and professionals alike. The only real required piece of equipment—at least for casual players—is a ball, which can be stitched together by any number of found materials, if need be. Makeshift goals can be defined as the nooks between trees or the gaps between fence posts. In between these spaces, balls are kicked into opponents’ goals as the other team tries to stop the score. In official games, two teams of 11 players use every and any part of their bodies besides their hands and arms to try to shift the ball into the opposing team’s net. The goalkeeper is special. She or he is the only person to use hands on the ball within the goal area. The team that accumulates the most scores wins.
In countries where soccer is most popular, such as Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Italy, fans go crazy for the sport; it is a lifestyle. But what does soccer look like in North America, a place where the game is the new kid on the block?
In the United States and Canada, Major League Soccer serves as the men’s professional soccer league. It is overseen by the United States Soccer Federation, the sport’s highest authority in the United States. As mentioned, something that is unique about the MLS is that it is a relatively new league in North American sports. In fact, its first season was not until 1996, with its founding only three years prior in 1993. Clearly, the global popularity of the sport has not fully taken over the states, but there are plenty of fans of the sport. In 2016, only 30 years after MLS was established, an average of nearly 22,000 spectators attended MLS games.
Which teams can this growing number of fans go to see? Divided into East and West Conferences, there are 24 teams across the United States and Canada that belong to the MLS. Included in this list are Atlanta United FC, Toronto FC, D.C. United, Los Angeles FC, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders FC, Portland Timbers, FC Cincinnati, Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, New England Revolution, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. On average, each team plays 34 games, which consists of 17 home games and 17 away games. Every team faces each team in their conference twice a season (one at home and once away). This means that if you live near a premier MLS team, there are annual viewing opportunities. There is no reason not to purchase some tickets to see this sport that is on the rise.